How to choose a travel trailer, caravan or camper trailer to match your tow vehicle

by Shaz

Overloading your tow vehicle can be dangerous. Find out how to avoid a disaster.

There is more to towing a travel trailer, caravan or camper trailer than meets the eye.

The first step is to avoid overloading your rig. This will significantly reduce the risk of a serious accident which may cause injury or death to you, your family, or other road users.

Don't risk it, find out how to do it the right way.

What Is The Towing Capacity Of Your Vehicle?

Rule # 1 - Don't Overload Your Tow Vehicle

If you are new to the world of camping, RVing, and caravanning may I suggest that you do some research before choosing a caravan?

It is really, really important not to overload your tow vehicle.

So the first thing you need to find out is how much weight your car or 4WD can legally tow. The owner’s manual should tell you the towing capacity of your vehicle, but occasionally they forget to mention it, particularly with smaller cars.

If you can’t find the towing capacity of your vehicle in the owner’s manual, or you just don’t have an owner’s manual, you can do a search on the Internet. For example: “2002 Ford Taurus towing capacity”.

Once having found out that your vehicle is capable of towing a travel trailer, caravan, or camper trailer up to say 6600lbs (3000kg) you can then go about searching for your ideal RV.

Bear in mind that you will be adding approximately 440 lbs (200kg) per person (unless you travel light). Personal items and camping gear can soon add significantly to the overall weight.

For example, assuming there are 2 adults and your caravan weighs 4800 lbs (2200kg) unloaded, you will be adding 880 lbs (400kg) of weight (440 lbs or 200kg per person), so that the total weight of your loaded caravan will be 5700 lbs (2600kg).

Using the example above, your vehicle can tow 6600 lbs (3000kg); therefore you are 880 lbs (400kg) under the total towing capacity of your vehicle.

Always try to come in under the maximum towing weight. This will give you a little leeway for carrying extra water or gas, or even some souvenirs and gifts you pick up along the way.

You will also avoid unnecessary strain on your tow vehicle, and extra costs that could have been avoided.

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What Will Happen If I Overload My Tow Vehicle?

The consequence of trying to tow too much weight is: Impending Disaster.

If you overload your tow vehicle, i.e. the caravan and its contents exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle, it will put undue strain on the motor of your vehicle as well as running the risk of becoming very unstable on the road to the point where the travel trailer or caravan will dictate the direction of your tow vehicle rather than the other way round. This of course is extremely dangerous as the driver needs to be in control at all times.

There are also other consequences such as exceeding the allowable weight on your towing hitch which results in the front steering wheels of the vehicle to be lifted to a point where steering control is not at an optimal level.

This imbalance can also put undue pressure on rear suspension components including shock absorbers, springs and the axle of the tow vehicle. Placing excessive strain on your vehicle will inevitably lead to parts failure and possible accident and severe injury to yourself and your passengers. If an accident should occur, your insurance may also be void if it is proven that you are towing more than your tow vehicle is capable of handling.

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What Should My Rig Look Like On The Road?

Getting the balance right.

Other than keeping an eye on the overall weight, there is another clear indication that things are not quite right.

You may have seen a vehicle towing a caravan, travel trailer or camper trailer and noticed that the front drawbar of the caravan is lower than the rear of the caravan. The caravan should be as level as possible from front to rear.

There are ways of correcting this problem, but it depends largely on your tow hitch and drawbar combination so you should get specialist advice on what needs to be done to level the load.

Having the right set up from the start not only makes it safer for everyone, but also gives you peace of mind that you will have a trouble free and enjoyable vacation.

More of my camping related articles

A gas grill can be used at the beach; baseball games; on road trips; camping or even on your patio at home.
A camping checklist takes the stress out of trying to remember everything you need to pack.
Is camping on your bucket list, but you're turned off by sleeping in a tent? Small caravans provide the solution.
A Colman propane camp stove is probably the most essential camping accessory. A hot meal at the end of a day in the great outdoors is something to really look forward to.
Updated: 02/18/2012, Shaz
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